Does creative freedom exist?

“People who do a job that claims to be creative have to be alone to recharge their batteries. You can’t live 24 hours a day in the spotlight and remain creative. For people like me, solitude is a victory.” – Karl Lagerfeld, fashion designer.

When you become a part of the creative world and get a job, it’s not just a job. It’s a lifestyle. Whether you are working in the creative industry or working as a freelancer, creativity requires an always-on mentality. In a typical 9 to 5 job in the business world, you roll out of bed, put on a decent shirt and pants, and go about your commute to work. Your biggest problem is whether you can get coffee before 9 am to not be late to work. You close up shop at 4:55, you stop answering emails, you send in your final Powerpoint draft, you untie your apron and say “I’m done for the day.”

As a photographer, I often find myself up at 2 am because I can’t stop thinking about whether my clients will like the the current vibe and colors I’ve produced in their photos, and hey, let’s just open up Lightroom and see if I can make something better. It’ll just take about five minutes (it’s never only five minutes).

Something I create could be good enough for me, but when I depend on my passion to make ends meet, I have to ask questions like: is it a game-changer? Will someone look at this and think “This is exactly what I’ve been looking for, and no one else has delivered this”? Will this be my big break? Can I stay true to myself and still make a living from it? As much as I want to believe that something I produce is good enough, that my work will be accepted with not just contentment, but also excitement, I can’t. I’m at the mercy of my audience.

That’s the problem with being in a creative industry. What’s the statement of the dress I have on right now? Will my client like these wedding photos? Is the design of this package going to help us gain revenue? Did I create an ad that will have the highest click-through rates?

You have a celebrity wearing your dress design down the red carpet, but the headline on tomorrow’s Cosmopolitan article is “Cringeworthy Dress Makes Worst 2017 Fashion Trends.” You send your clients their wedding photos, but they email you saying you’ve ruined the most important day of their lives. You create a new app and convince investors to trust you, but it doesn’t sell and everyone loses a fortune.

You think that you’re going into an industry where you’re able to pursue your passion, but years later you find yourself succumbing to the pressures of everything around you. The press, your clientele, your supervisor, or the fact that your competitors are doing way better than you — wait, how are they getting more attention, more likes, more money?

I’ve had a lot of my work received well, but I’ve also had my fair share of negative reviews. Going into the creative world is scary – you open yourself to unsolicited advice, but at the same time you know you need it. Smile and nod while they tell me that I need to work on my eye for complimentary colors. Chuckle gracefully when they ask me why I decided to be a photographer anyway. Breathe in and out when they tell you you’re not good enough to make it. Don’t cry, no, no, stop, wait ’til you get home.

I’ve created so many wounds by making myself open to criticism, but I’m working on it. Actress Tracee Ellis Ross puts it nicely:

“I am learning everyday to allow the space between where I am and where I want to be, to inspire me and not terrify me.”


Photos are taken at Kirby Cove. It’s about a 40 minute drive from East Bay, and even shorter from San Francisco.



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